A SCOTTISH bull’s Crown Jewels have made farming history – 15 months after he died.
Linton Gilbertines Rocco, an Aberdeen Angus worth £12,000, broke his leg before he could sire any calves and needed to be put down.
Vets gave Rocco a general anaesthetic and surgically removed his reproductive equipment before he was humanely destroyed.
Rocco’s owner John Elliot then drove 250 miles from Kelso, Scottish Borders, to Shropshire, with Rocco’s testicles packed in ice in a box.
Work by a specialist firm that normally deals with horses meant that the deceased bull has now posthumously fathered the first of up to 180 calves.
It is thought to be the first time the procedure has ever been tried on a bull in the UK.
Rocco was found with a broken leg at the end of 2013, only months after being the top-selling bull at a sale in Stirling.
Despite having to be put down, John decided to try a pioneering procedure to save Rocco’s precious genes.
The experimental process involved removing the bull’s testicles whilst under anaesthetic, keeping them on ice and then surgically extracting the semen.
Usually used on horses, it means that the genes can be preserved and used for future breeding, years after the animal’s death.
The work was carried out by Stallion AI, a firm near Whitchurch in Shropshire.
They managed to extract 180 ‘straws’ of semen – meaning a possible 180 calves could be produced.
Five straws were used on five cows, with two falling pregnant. A pair of female calves, Erica and Ellen, were born last week and are thought to be the first of their kind.
John, 36, who owns the Roxburgh Mains farm along with his father, is “thrilled” that the procedure has worked.
He said: “It was one of the worst days on the farm when Rocco broke his leg – I was devastated.
“It was at the Dick Vet’s in Edinburgh that it was first suggested we tried a process called post-castration epididymal sperm extraction – meaning we could still save his fantastic genetics.
“We were against the clock and I had about 12 hours to get the testicles down to Shropshire. I drove through the night and got there early in the morning.
“It took the team five hours to complete the process, but we ended up with 180 straws which is great.
“I’m thrilled with how it has turned out. It means that if something really awful like this happens then all is not lost.”
He plans to try and impregnate another 30 cows later this year, with the hope of producing more offspring from the deceased bull.
“I would definitely recommend this for owners who have bulls in a similar situation,” he said. “Obviously, I would rather we still had the bull – he was such a gentle giant – but this means that we can still have a happy ending.”